Several charges filed against Dinosaur town clerk, treasurer

Employee requests public hearing to deny allegations

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— After almost two months of being suspended with pay, Dinosaur Town Clerk and Treasurer Debbie Morrill knows why. She received a list of the complaints by city officials against her Aug. 13.

The Dinosaur Board of Trustees listed 13 complaints, or charges, against Morrill. The allegations range from financial fiascoes to mail tampering charges that are summed up with descriptions of insubordination, inefficiency, careless or unsatisfactory job performance and violation of the Dinosaur Board of Trustees' orders and policies.

On the advice of the town attorney, Dinosaur Mayor Richard Blakely wouldn't comment and Morrill said the charges made her laugh saying some of the accusations are true, but not accurate descriptions of the events.

For example, the complaint cites a letter from Club 20, a political lobbying group, received at the town hall saying it was mail for the mayor or the board that never reached board members. The letter came, Morrill said, but it was in response to a telephone call she received asking if she would like to be a member of Club 20. She asked the caller to send the information to her so she could decide.

Morrill said the charges cited in the complaint came as no surprise to her.

"Anything (Blakely) could think of to complain about he would," she said.

Morrill was hired as the town clerk and treasurer in May 1998 and since then she has not been reprimanded or received a poor performance review, she said.

The first charge against Morrill is she went directly against board member requests and denied an employee's family insurance coverage under the town policy.

In the complaint, board members contend an employee asked to forego a salary increase in exchange for family insurance. The complaint states "the Board of Trustees agreed to such an arrangement."

According to Morrill, the night she was suspended board members listened to tapes of meetings surrounding that incident and could not find where the board agreed, in a public meeting, to give the employee family insurance. What is on the official tape of board meetings, Morrill said, was board members asking Morrill to wait to see if there was enough money in the budget to cover the insurance premiums.

The complaint states that Trustee Penny Adams directed Morrill to enroll the employee and his family in the medical insurance plan.

"She doesn't have the authority to do that without council knowledge," Morrill said.

Morrill also said several of the directives she received from Adams were given after Adams had resigned as a trustee.

Tampering with the mail is something Morrill said she's never done.

"If (Blakely) didn't have mail every day, he said it was because I was not getting it to him," Morrill said.

The complaint alleges that a town member saw Morrill opening a certified letter, read it and said "we shouldn't have opened this one."

Morrill said the incident was true, but the letter was not for the mayor, it was a piece of personal certified mail addressed to her husband. Morrill said she often picked up her mail on her lunch break and brought it back to the office to open with the rest of the town mail.

Morrill said all Blakely's mail and faxes were given to him and if he didn't receive certain things it was because they weren't town business or were sent on a faulty facimile machine that often didn't work.

Morrill is also accused of not training town Deputy Clerk and Treasurer Tamara Long how to work a new financial software program purchased by the town. Morrill was sent to a one-week training class on the software at the town's expense and "directed on several occasions by the board of trustees to train Long on the program."

Morrill said she told trustees several times that Long needed outside training on the program. According to Morrill, the class she took dealt with utility billing and she did not get any training on the general ledger.

Reconciling bank statements and balancing the general ledger were both Long's responsibilities and the problems with those two areas cited in the complaint were not part of Morrill's job, Morrill said. In fact, Morrill said she was asked in a public meeting to give Long the task of handling all financial records except the utility billing records.

At least two allegations in the complaint contradict themselves.

One charge is that, after repeated requests, Morrill did not place grant money in a separate interest-bearing account. The grant money, according to Blakely, was received by the ColoTrust for a street improvement project. According to Morrill, the money was put into a separate account last year.

The second charge is that Blakely was not named as a signator on the town's ColoTrust investment account, the same account Morrill is accused of not establishing in the prior charge.

The town has until Oct. 4 to decide on a date for a hearing on the charges. At Morrill's request, the hearing will be open to the public. A judge from Rangely will oversee the proceedings.

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